So, the last Premier League game of the season is here. Do or die, as the willing hyperbole of English football tells us. Arsenal need, first and foremost, to win and then hope Liverpool’s wretched run of home form continues once again.
A collective sigh of relief would exhale as the usual Round of Sixteen exit can take place. While the denigration of the Europa League continues unabated, some had better get used to eating sausages this summer; there’s a shortage of caviar about.
Everton will finish seventh, irrespective of the result but that doesn’t mean they will make it easy to win. I suspect the only thing which exceeds their dislike of neighbours, Liverpool, is their personal pride. The Toffees have been durable opponents in the past and will no doubt be the same today.
Some continue to believe in miracles but the reality of the club’s situation is that the top four finishes eulogised by Arsène in the past, have come to an end. It’s not quite what Ivan had in mind but Wenger has proven to be a catalyst for change after all.
According to ‘reports’, the new contract is being announced after the cup final; Arsène has told “associates” that’s the case, according to Jonathan Norcroft in this morning’s Sunday Times.
The elephant in the room this afternoon is not just the future of the club and Wenger, but also the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil at the club. So many elephants, it makes you wonder if there’s enough room for the match on the pitch.
Days In Europa League
There is no doubt that keeping Alexis will be the toughest task this summer. Selling the Europa League as a blip won’t be that simple so one way of soothing the conversation will be signing new players.
Quick, decisive action; everything we are not noted for. Show the player that the problems are being addressed and that’s half the battle with someone who wants to win trophies, or compete at the very least.
The criticism of Sanchez earlier this season – led by Wenger – is that the player didn’t work hard enough for the team, that he was playing more for himself than the club. Those same can be levelled at the manager over his own future, and probably during the coming summer as well.
What we need to happen and what will, are most definitely two different things.
With Özil, the conversation is most likely down to cash. The Telegraph reports only Fenerbahce and China are showing their hand as interested parties; how his stock has fallen. Maybe not that far but none the less, he isn’t being heavily linked with anyone so options are thin on the ground.
On the future of the club itself, the broadsheets are in general consensus with no-one expecting Kroenke to sell. “Victoria Concordia Crescit” no longer appears on the club crest; it’s being replaced by “As You Were”. Islington council denied reports that a blue plaque commemorating the passing of Arsenal’s title ambitions, is being sited at Highbury.
Hope that these turbulent times will change Kroenke’s outlook seem forlorn. This is a man whose ambition doesn’t extend beyond working for the yankee dollar. His sporting franchises in the US are, for the most part, mediocre in terms of sporting achievement. Making money for him, despite an utter lack of success.
The Absolute Game
It’s why he won’t sell Arsenal just yet. There are more avenues to exploit, e.g. streaming fixtures, as well as a potential European League; there’s just too much money to be made.
All of which almost passes this fixture by. Wenger needs a strong team to win today, contradicting and over-riding any ambitions toward next weekend. He won’t unduly hurry to bring back the injured, meaning Laurent Koscielny will likely miss out today. Nacho Monreal is expected to shuffle across to complete a back three with Gabriel joining the starting line-up.
The only other question is who to start up front. I’d argue Danny Welbeck is better suited to stretching the Everton defence but I suspect Giroud will start. Arsène digs the whole loyalty to the players gig.
Which leaves the starting line-up:
Cech; Gabriel, Holding, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Gibbs; Özil, Sanchez; Welbeck
It’s a good enough XI to win the game and I expect us to, 2 – 0.
Finally, there’s a new Record of the Week at Dad’s Jukebox – with a football-related theme.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.